AAEM Position Statement on the Term “Provider”

The American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) recognizes and advocates for the patient’s right to know the credentials of all clinicians being trusted with his/her well-being. Studies repeatedly show that patients in the US healthcare system want to know these credentials and are confused when credentials are not clearly presented.1 More importantly, AAEM believes that credential transparency is a moral obligation.

The term “provider” in reference to any clinician is vague, inaccurate, and hinders a patient’s ability to make informed decisions. The education, expertise, and roles of different clinicians vary greatly. The term “provider” removes the ability to distinguish the unique contribution of the physician in not only the clinical setting, but also for purposes of policy and research that directly impact patient care. Physicians complete more education and maintain higher standards than any other healthcare professionals,2 and patients rightfully hold higher expectations for physicians than for any other clinician.

AAEM believes that the patient/physician relationship is like no other; physicians spend a decade or more studying to earn—and a lifetime to maintain—patients’ trust. Far from a service to a customer, it is a calling to place in first consideration the health and well-being of the patient, as stated in the Declaration of Geneva. The therapeutic relationship of physician to patient has not changed despite a rapidly evolving healthcare system.

Best practice calls for clearly informing patients and referring to each healthcare professional by his or her individual title to convey unique roles and responsibilities. The American Academy of Emergency Medicine opposes use of the term “provider” in reference to any healthcare clinician and joins the American Medical Association3 and the American Academy of Family Physicians4 in calling on employers, policymakers, healthcare personnel, researchers, and others to refer to clinicians by their individual, proper titles.


  1. American Medical Association. Truth in Advertising Survey Results. Accessed 29 August 2020. Available from: https://www.ama-assn.org/sites/ama-assn.org/files/corp/media-browser/premium/arc/tia-survey_0.pdf.
  2. American Board of Medical Specialties. What is ABMS Board Certification? Accessed 29 August 2020. Available from: https://www.abms.org/board-certification/.
  3. American Medical Association. AMA Policy H405.968. 2019. Accessed 29 August 2020. Available from: https://www.ama-assn.org/system/files/2019-04/a19-bot09.pdf.
  4. American Academy of Family Physicians. Provider, Use of Term (Position Paper). 2018. Accessed 29 August 2020. Available from: https://www.aafp.org/about/policies/all/provider-term-position.html.

Approved: 9/14/2020